Location: Squonk’s rehearsal space (formerly an Alcoa research facility) in New Kensington

Featured guests: Jackie Dempsey and Steve O’Hearn, artistic directors of the performance group Squonk

3 things that surprised me:

1. Squonk started three decades ago by staging performances that fall somewhere between a concert, art installation, theatrical piece, puppet show and interactive experience. The group’s last show was a rock concert framed by two massive hands — each as big as a house — that were manipulated by puppeteers and the audience. For the upcoming show “Brouhaha,” Squonk is constructing a massive multimedia stage that’s also a playable instrument.

2. Once Steve and Jackie decide what the next show will be, they build a model of the stage and set. Then, they have to figure out how to bring it to life in full size. For this show, they’re working with a small team of fabricators and technical directors to build huge bellows, extendable trumpets and giant smoking ears. Since the components are so unique, they’ve got to build nearly everything from scratch. On the day I was there, they were welding, sewing and testing pneumatic systems.

3. To construct this show, Squonk rented a warehouse in a former Alcoa research facility in New Kensington. Steve says that the industrial space used to be a foundry where the company experimented with new materials. They let me wander around the space and we discovered a floor full of abandoned offices and a lab.

One thing that didn’t make the final cut: Jackie and Steve say that a lot of their wild artistic ideas never see the light of the day. When I asked about one of those abandoned ideas, Jackie recalled a giant inflatable hammer that Steve proposed. Jackie thought it might not be family-friendly enough to be part of one of their shows.

Additional info: Squonk is premiering “Brouhaha” at the Kickoff and Rib Festival at Acrisure Stadium on Sept. 3 and 4. Learn more about Squonk and check out their show schedule on the group’s website.

Want more Yinzer Backstage Pass? Check out our video featuring the Pittsburgh airport’s bomb-sniffing dogs and learn what it takes to train a canine to smell explosives.

Boaz is the host of NEXTpittsburgh's Yinzer Backstage Pass video series. He is also an author, filmmaker, advertising copywriter, teacher, experiential storyteller, talk show host, gardener, kazoo museum curator and so much more.